There are 45 officially designated "Foreign Terrorist Organizations," and until the past few days, a good many folks who deal with terrorism, including the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, assumed that TTP (the group thought to have links to the failed Times Square bombing attempt) was on it. It's not. Here's a list of those 45 groups, provided by a source: FTO_2010.pdf

This may seem like a formality, but it's turned into a political hot potato. Republicans say that the Obama administration's flawed political strategy in Pakistan, which allows for the hopeful conversion of some TTP elements from bad guys into friendly, is hopelessly naive. Some of their allies in the intelligence community say that the lack of an official terrorist designation is hampering efforts to collect and exploit intel on the group. They're also questioning the link between TTP and the bomber -- suddenly, it seems, Eric Holder seems to eager to find a link between TTP and Faisal Shahzad and is only just now becoming responsive to concerns that U.S. counterterrorism policies need revising.  Bunk, the Justice Department responds.

The White House, is, in fact, looking at ways to put TTP on the list. Yesterday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the legal process was fairly extensive (because it involves freezing assets) and it's a relatively new organization.  A senior administration official, speaking frankly about the subject on the condition of anonymity, said that the lack of a designation, "doesn't exactly impact our ability to go after these guys, as the Pakistanis have been mounting a major offensive against them with our assistance for many months now, and several of their top people - including their leader - have met their demise kinetically."  Kinetically is a euphemism for "quickly" as in, killed with a bomb or bullet.

As for the evidence that TTP is linked to Shahzad, Sen. Kit Bond professed to be unconvinced by the evidence presented to him in a briefing yesterday. That may be because he fell asleep at one point -- maybe he missed the key point. An intelligence official who was not present at the briefing said that there is an "independent" stream of evidence connecting Shahzad to TTP figures, although another said that there was no direct evidence that a TTP poo-bah had directly authorized the Times Square attack. That may explain the lack of SIGINT warning. Usually, before major events, a spike in chatter is seen because the NSA and other government agencies have Pakistan wired. There was none. And there wasn't any SIGINT traffic after the event, either, until Shahzad was arrested. The working theory is that Shahzad was too eager to do whatever it was that he may have been trained to do, or that he was deemed to be unreliable as a potential bomber. The flip side of this claim is that it's hard to believe that the TTP wouldn't want to exploit an American with a valid passport. 

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to